Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
MIDDLE JURASSIC DINOSAURS AND UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH: OPPORTUNITIES FROM THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD DINOSAUR TRACKSITE
As little is known about the Middle Jurassic dinosaurs of North America, the discovery of tracks in northern Wyoming provides an exciting opportunity for student research. A project to locate and study Middle Jurassic dinosaur tracks in the northeastern Bighorn Basin of Wyoming has furnished new information to our understanding of the Jurassic Period in Wyoming and is adding to the limited knowledge of North Americas Middle Jurassic dinosaur fauna. At the Yellow Brick Road Dinosaur Tracksite ( UW V- 2001-001), hundreds of footprint impressions of theropod dinosaurs were surveyed and studied as part of UW Geological Museum undergraduate research program funded by EPSCoR and the Jurassic Foundation. Tracks, trackways, and track- bearing units were studied to better understand the paleoecology and paleoenvironment of the tracksite and possible behavioral implications of the dinosaurs that left these footprints. The tracks are found in the Canyon Springs Member of the Sundance Formation, where thousands of footprint impressions are preserved in exposures of an oolitic, gray, tidal dominated limestone approximately 167 million years old. The tracks are tridactyl, digitigrade, pes impressions in concave epirelief, possibly representing a single ichnotaxa and preserving evidence for gregarious behavior in Jurassic theropods.
The State of Wyoming is often thought of as one big town with long city streets. The abundant paleontological and geological resources in the state provide opportunities for Wyoming undergraduate students to conduct applied research projects right in their own backyard. A program developed by the UW Geological Museum allows motivated students the chance to learn various aspects of research in paleontology. Through faculty guidance, this program provides valuable experiences in setting up an independent study project, collecting data in the field, and interpreting the data. In addition, students gain essential skills in finding funding for projects through the process of grant applications and writing proposals. Students present their research results in publications and presentations at scientific conferences. Finally, the Yellow Brick Road Dinosaur Tracksite project provides an example of the quality of research that can be accomplished by undergraduate students.